Jul 14, 2020 - Health

White House tells hospitals to bypass CDC on coronavirus data

Photo: TAMI CHAPPELL / Contributor

The Trump administration is cutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of the process of collecting coronavirus data, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The new database will not be open to the public, according to the Times, and comes amid repeated efforts by the Trump administration to sideline the CDC.

Details: The White House told hospitals to stop reporting key data about their patients to the CDC, and to instead feed it into a new system that will flow directly to the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees the CDC.

  • The change was designed to help the White House's coronavirus task force allocate resources, officials told the Times.
  • But experts said they're worried that the new system will make it harder for people outside the White House to track the pandemic.

Between the lines: Experts told the NYT that the CDC's data collection systems are flawed, but some questioned whether the administration's new system would be significantly more efficient, on top of their questions about its transparency.

  • The CDC "will certainly participate" in the new process, but "will simply no longer control it," HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo told the Times.

Context: The CDC is increasingly under fire from the White House and its Republican allies.

  • President Trump and Vice President Pence both criticized CDC guidance that called for opening schools only with extensive social distancing measures in place.
  • Trump and senior White House officials previously complained about the CDC's decision to include "presumptive" coronavirus deaths — people who died after experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus, but had not been tested for it — in the official death tally.
  • Politico reported last month that the White House was looking to lay the blame for the coronavirus response on the CDC, potentially including "narrowing the mission of the agency or trying to embed more political appointees."
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